Teaching Writing

So What?: Teaching Writing Edition

So What? This semester has come and gone. Time to check off the course & forget it, right? Not for us. Not this time. Very soon we will begin student teaching and pre-planning with our mentor teacher (I mean very, very soon – I start tomorrow…) and we will experience a real classroom. Now more than ever should we be applying our reading to our academic and professional lives. That being said, it was important to me to take some time and skim back over some of our reading for this semester, my notes, and my reflections in order to prepare myself for the fact that this is real and is happening now – not some time far in the future, but now. What kind of teacher will I be? Well, only time will tell, but I can tell you now what kind of teacher I would like to be along with a few lessons I’ve learned from the pro’s we have read this semester.

The “Non-negotiables”:

  • Digital Writing
    • This will be incorporated in my classroom without a doubt – our students are so absorbed in this world of technology that it is important – not to bash it (although I always advocate for a good paper & pen or a paper book), but encourage the creative tools that can be found when utilizing technology in the classroom.
    • Hicks (2013)  talked about digital writing by addressing the fact that our students are actively engaging in digital writing all of the time through social media so we should be “inviting them to be intentional about the craft of digital writing is perfects the best way to help them realize their potential in academic, social, political, and community contexts. When we talk and teach thoughtfully about the elements of digital writing – words, images, sounds, videos, links, and other media elements – we are helping them be purposeful and, in turn, helping them be creative.”

  • Cursive
    • That being said, I will also counteract the digital technology with CURSIVE. Yep, I said it. Pen-to-paper cursive. It blows my mind how this is a dying art. Shorthand writing is something we will always do (I think… unless robots take over completely), therefore, learning shorthand in cursive just makes things faster. I think eventually those of us who can actually write in cursive will be paid simply for our handwriting and I’m waiting to cash in.
  • Multi-genre projects
    • Dr. Kajder’s writings about Personal Narrative Digital Storytelling and the project she gave us really allowed me to see the connections that can be made through using mode writing in terms of composition and storytelling through video or pictures. From that point, we continued touching on this idea through our different prompts during the semester that urged us to create more than a written assignment. Maybe it’s just me & my tendency to doodle, but I found myself wayyy more invested in the projects and producing my best work when I was able to put a little of myself into it by expressing my creativity.
  • Social Media in the Classroom
    • I chose to research integrating social media into the classroom as my focus for my final multi-genre project, and due to my interest and the discoveries that support engaging with students via social media networking and how it works to spark their interest, I will working to curate my Bookshelves & Brainstorms account for the classroom one day.
  • Cultivating Community
    • After reading The Greatest Catch: A Life in Teaching by Penny Kittle, I realized just how important creating an environment that is both inviting for students and a community for them to rest in is essential to the setting I desire for my classroom. Teaching is the most powerful form of investing in others because of its ability to start a chain reaction – the inspired will seek to inspire others, and by choosing to consider position, purpose, and the person in teaching, you are choosing to constantly refocus of your mission as an educator and bring your best self to the classroom for your students. Consequently, creating a space for students to feel as if they are participating in a group that encourages each other with a teacher that has their backs is a non-negotiable for me, so I hope to provide optional conference sessions for students who want feedback during the drafting stages.
  • Optional Writing Conference Sessions
    • Once again, Penny Kittle’s words stuck with me! In her writing about feedback she writes, “Writers need feedback, not evaluation,” and she says it in such a matter-of-fact way that it makes me wonder how this is not common sense. Now, I understand at some point students must be evaluated for their work, but in the drafting stages (and really in the first few papers or written assignments) constructive feedback should be encouraging and formative rather than just an evaluation of what is “wrong.”
  • Have my own Readers/Writers Notebook or Journal
    • I hope to have my students working through some sort of journal throughout the school year to give them a chance to get their thoughts on paper. Middle and high school students, especially, have so much rolling around in their minds every day that having a little therapeutic writing time (I’m talking 5-10 minutes) can really be a stress reliever for students, if presented the right way. I would like to also write my own entries during this time, so my students can see me writing and know I’m not just assigning them busywork to take up time. If I take the time to do it too, it adds value and sincerity to the assignments I give.
  • Back-to-School Letters
    • This one does not necessarily have anything to do with the reading we have had this semester, but it has to do with a positive impression left on me by one of my former teachers. Mr. Melton, if you stumbled upon this (even though your math mind may not be reading an English Edu. blog), I would like to thank you on behalf of all of your students for the time you took writing little responses addressed to each of us individually & addressing our personal messages to you about ourselves. I remember seeing the suppressed smiles across the classroom as each person read a note that was sincere and considerate. This is a great way to start off the year and it automatically adds a personal connection between you and your students without much time. I hope to keep this as a non-negotiable even when my years seem too busy.
  • A comfy chair (or two?)
    • Okay, this may be a silly non-negotiable, BUT space permitting I will have a comfy reading chair/corner/area to help aid the homey feel I would like my classroom to have. My mentor teacher has a Keurig in her classroom (the DREAM, I know), so maybe coming up with a system (as a reward maybe) or a B.Y.O.KC (bring your own k-cup, I use this term often if I’m honest) could be a fun addition to a classroom. After sitting in those squeaky, plastic chairs all day, the students may love me just for having a real piece of furniture.
  • Andddd #10… T.B.D.
    • To Be Determined… I want to leave this spot open in hopes that I find the right fit. It would bother me if I made a list of “non-negotiables” and included something I was iffy about, and considering I have much to learn this year, I think I am going to leave this space as a placeholder for an exciting new possibility. I have confidence by the end of student teaching I will be able to confidently fill this spot!

The High’s & Low’s:

I’d be lying if I claimed that every assignment this semester was easy for me. There were ones that challenged me to the point of new realizations about my mind as a student and there were others that sparked my interest as a future teacher. The “Things Overheard” assignment was actually very enlightening for me. I would not say it was necessarily hard for me, but it was eye-opening in the way it introduced me to observing my surrounds. It made me think and feel and write like an actual author. I think this will be an assignment I use every year with my future students (maybe even list it as a “non-negotiable”). Another “low” of sorts for me was how torn I have been about teaching coming into this summer semester. I had an incredible marketing internship and I have always torn between my passions of running my business while pursuing a career in marketing or teaching – both hold very special places in my heart. These summer courses have made that struggle all the more real. I am excited to start student teaching and face all the challenges that come with it as growing experiences and, hopefully, learning experiences as well to help me make my decision. From our reading assignments to our zoom discussion and blog prompts, I have seen a spark in interest for my passion for teaching this summer. A “high” from these courses have been the encouragement I have had through interacting with my cohort & instructor. I actually loved the zoom discussion, mainly, because I like to talk to people, but also because I was able to see the support group I feel have with me through these next several months.

So

Here’s to new challenges, experiences encourage growth, new friends, and those kiddos we get to love on very soon!

Here’s to the next step!

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